From Bugs Bunny to Monty Python to Victor Borge, classical music and comedy have been long-time pals.
And like the best buddy comedies, the mirth rests on an incongruous pairing. The tradition and rituals of classical music serve as the comedic straight-man, with the irreverent and earnest comedic talent throwing periodic, sometimes earthy, curveballs.
From The Odd Couple to Tommy Boy and more recently to the 21 Jump Street remake, incongruous pairings not only provide laughter, they can also, in an odd way, bring out the best in each other.
At Second City: Guide to the Symphony, Second City and the Grand Rapids Symphony unite in a pairing that brings out the best in comedians and musicians alike, with flair fit for Gilda’s Laughfest.
Hailed by the Toronto Star in its inaugural run in 2014 as “the funniest two hours I spent in a theatre this year,” Second City: Guide to the Symphony was created by four writers/actors from Toronto’s Second City and was first produced in collaboration with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Peter Oundjian.
It’s possible that the arrival of the famed Second City, who has produced such comedic greats as Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Martin Short, and dozens of others, could come at no better time.
Laughfest, which opened March 8 and featured its signature event with Trevor Noah on March 10, ends Sunday, March 18, just a few hours after the final performance of Second City: Guide to the Symphony.
Grand Rapids Pops presents Second City: Guide to the Symphony on March 16-18 in DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW. Shows are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 16-17 and at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 18. Tickets start at $18.
With the online promo code, an additional 10% of all sales will be donated to Gilda’s Club.
A blend of original sketch comedy with orchestral works by the great masters and new music and songs by Mathew Reid, Second City: Guide to the Symphony satirizes all things symphony: the musicians, the repertoire, the personalities, and even the audiences.
The show is lighthearted and satirical; earnest and sassy, with nod and wink humor meant for ages 15 and older.
With Associate Conductor John Varineau on the podium, the music of Mozart, Mahler and Glinka provides the straight-man for strange uncles, mutinous high school orchestras, and erotically-charged rock-n-rollers in sketches that lampoon, satirize, and above all, celebrate the symphony orchestra.
Described by the Toronto Star as “a beautifully written, skillfully staged and an impeccably performed piece of musical theatre,” the show has reached symphony new-comers unfamiliar classical music greats, as well as regular symphony-goers; most recently in Washington D.C. where the National Symphony Orchestra performed with the comedic talent from Toronto’s Second City.
“Self-aware… a fun departure from what unconverted members of the audience assumed a symphony was,” wrote the Washington Post about the filled-to-the-brim performances at the National Symphony Orchestra.
It’s worth noting that Laughfest, in addition to providing comedic relief, brings together diverse audiences each year in March and celebrates laughter as “an essential part of emotional health and wellbeing.”
Comedian, conductor, and pianist Victor Borge summed it up like this: “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
It’s with laughter that buddy comedies find their rhythm. It’s with laughter that an incongruous pairing of people realize that they’re actually really good together. Like Jake and Elwood in The Blues Brothers; like Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in Men in Black; like Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph in Bridesmaids, it’s a moment where laughter closes any distance that was there.
This weekend, Second City performers, together with the Grand Rapids Symphony, provide a show filled not only with mirth and satire, but with moments that close any distance there was.
Written by Jenn Collard, Grand Rapids Symphony Public Relations Intern